In case you hadn’t heard, the Cedar Rapids Public Library is making a big move this week…across the street from their temporary home at Westdale Mall into a newly renovated space now known as the Ladd Library.
This is exciting on a number of levels…from the fact that the library will now feature public restrooms (I know what you are thinking…really, that is important?! But trust me, if you go to the library with a 5-year-old regularly it’s important!) to the notion that this marks an exciting evolution for the Cedar Rapids Public Library. Not only will they open this fabulous new branch library in 2013, but the much-anticipated and long (but patiently) awaited new downtown Cedar Rapids Public Library will also open later this summer!
Now I am not just saying this because I love the library (and think the world of several key staff members) but the folks at the Cedar Rapids Public Library have a fun attitude and innovative approach to most everything they do. I mean what do you do when you are moving, but ask for help from friends and family. And that’s just what the Cedar Rapids Public Library did. They invited library card holders to come in and check out as many books as they could carry in an effort to help the library make the move.
Given the fact that I’ve moved more times in my life than I can count on my hands, I consider myself a semi-professional mover. So of course I wanted to do my part. It also helped that Tom and Lucy happened to think this was an awesome (and hysterical) idea.
So last Friday we rolled into the library (yes, I totally brought a rolling bag) and stocked up on as many picture books (Lucy) and nonfiction titles (Tom) as we could handle.
We came away with 35 books (which I might add is darn heavy even with wheels) and one movie.
Then once we got (heaved) the books home we decided we need to make a mini Cedar Rapids Public Library to house them all while in our care. (We didn’t want any mix ups with the books we already have here at home!) Lucy was my enthusiastic helper.
We were and are excited to be part of the Cedar Rapids Public Library’s big move. We’re even more excited to see the new space! There’s a big party Friday night (you can still get tickets!) and the grand opening celebration continues on Saturday. So stop in and check it out!
ps…Can you just remind me that my stash of books is due back March 8th?!
You may or may not be aware that this coming Wednesday, March 7th has been deemed World Read Aloud Day, which may very well be my new favorite holiday. I mean it’s obvious that I love books, but I also happen to love to read them aloud to anyone who will listen. Usually it happens to be these two characters…
wait…here they are prepared to be better listeners…
I love reading to my kiddos…it’s the best part of my day, every day. As part of our nighttime routine we read anywhere from two to six books…that we pick out from the St. Matthew School Library, the Cedar Rapids Public Library, or our own ever growing library here at home.
Today–because it’s snowing and frankly we thought we were done with the white stuff–we snuggled up and read Ponyella (Lucy’s pick and recommendation) by Laura Numeroff and Nate Evans, Stick (which Tom actually read to me and Lucy…LOVE!) by Steve Breen, and Dr. Seuss’s ABC (which my 60-year-old father-in-law still has memorized from reading to my husband when he was little) written by none other than Dr. Seuss (whose birthday is being celebrated in a big way today…he would have been 108!)
You see I think reading to your kids is a requirement of parenting. It is not only fun, quality time together, but it also helps you raise a child who loves to read (and boost their brain power, among other benefits while you do it.)
It will come as no surprise that I signed up in support of World Read Aloud Day…you can too! The best part is that you don’t have to jump through any hoops or make a huge commitment to be part of something so important. Just read to your kids…or with a friend…or to an elderly person. Heck, even your dog would enjoy a good read aloud session. I plan to read to the kids at Tom and Lucy’s school…and to Tom and Lucy of course.
The way I see it, every day should be read aloud day!
So all summer I keep wondering what is making it all go by so very quickly. I mean it’s almost August for goodness sake! But as I sat down now to write today I thought back on all that I have done in just the last week. And it started to click that while we haven’t done anything grand and vacationy this summer, we’ve been doing plenty to make the days fly by.
Last Thursday I enjoyed a night at The Classics at Brucemore…outdoor theatre featuring Shakespeare’s The Tempest. I have to admit I always enjoy the food, drinks (cucumber vodka and water please!) and gals I go with more than the actual performance (not that we don’t have amazingly talented performers in this fine city). It’s just that it’s all so picturesque and fun.
Then I spent the weekend taking part in the Iowa Summer Writing Festival in Iowa City. I participated in a picture book writing workshop where a fine group of aspiring and accomplished writers gave me very valuable feedback on my manuscript. (Now I just need to make time to implement changes!)
Then came a trip to the pool, a trip to the dentist (least favorite activity for sure), writing several stories, being assigned several more, swimming at our friends’ house, turning in our reading program materials at the CRPL, checking out a new spalshpad (are you sensing the water theme here? It’s been darn hot!), a parent association meeting (school is on the horizon) and a most enjoyable evening at Brucemore’s Outdoor Children’s Theatre. Such fun!
And those are just the highlights! I do have to keep up with the laundry and sweeping up all the hair the darn dog is shedding and grocery shopping (OK I haven’t been the best about keeping up with this lately!)
When I look at it this way I know why we’ve had such a busy–and FUN–summer.
Of course there’s more fun to be had (including an upcoming trip to St. Louis to meet my new favorite nephew!) and I fully intend to soak up every last minute. But I’m about to go break it to Tom that there are 24 more days left until school starts back up.
Wish me luck!
Last week I stopped in at a lunchtime program at the Cedar Rapids Public Library (CRPL) about becoming a published author. It was wonderful and engaging and I especially enjoyed meeting other local writers.
At one point during the hour I mentioned that I was working on a young adult novel about a 12-year-old boy who saves an art collection from the flood…the art collection owned by the Cedar Rapids Public Library, in fact. Two CRPL children’s librarians’ eyes lit up in the back of the room. “You’re going to tell us when it’s done, right?” they both asked enthusiastically.
Ever since I’ve announced that I’ll be writing Evelyn’s Drawings Can’t Swim I’ve been getting nothing but excited feedback. It is truly amazing to have the support of all your family and friends as you embark on an incredible journey like this. And honestly all the people I have talked to about the book—that I am not related to or friends with on Facebook—are so far intrigued by the idea. (Whether they want to read it is another story I guess.)
I am proud to be from Cedar Rapids. And I am proud and honored that I get to write a story about my new friend Noah from Cedar Rapids, too. There is a wonderful sense of community here and I am just so touched by the fact that my story has been taken in and supported by that community. I can’t wait until the book is finished and I can go back to the CRPL and do a reading, or visit my son’s school, or meet with local book groups…and show my fellow Cedar Rapidians that we have great stories to tell.
Now part of you can’t help but wonder if anyone else out there…outside the city limits of Cedar Rapids, that is…will care. I have to think so, or believe so. There are important messages in my story for tweens and teens (and anyone else who wants to pick it up) and a pretty excellent adventure.
So I help draw a little attention to Cedar Rapids in the meantime. I’m just doing my part for my hometown.
Or more appropriately you and I should be asking “who art thou?”
A narrator is a very important element of the book…essential to telling the story of course. As a writer I am communicating to my reader through my story’s narrator. And as I have started off my process, deciding on the narrator, identifying her voice and then sticking to it has been one of the most challenging elements thus far.
The good thing is I really like my narrator.
In writing my book, I’ve decided to take a little different approach, I think, than other young adult novels. My story is not being told in first person or through the voice of a young adult. The narrator of “Evelyn’s Drawings Can’t Swim” is in fact Evelyn Zerzanek herself.
This presents a number of challenges in itself. For one, I have never met Evelyn (which makes it interesting that I presume we are on a first name basis!) and don’t really know much more about her than the many years she spent working at the Cedar Rapids Public Library and her amazing dedication to creating a one-of-a-kind collection of children’s book illustrations.
Of course that can’t be that big of a deal, right. I mean writers are constantly dreaming up characters and narrators for their stories whom they’ve never met or talked to. Heck, they often weren’t even real people.
But telling a rather adventurous story—that you hope teens latch on to and love—through the voice of an older, because I don’t dare say elderly, librarian isn’t going to be a walk in the park (or leisurely float down the Cedar River for that matter.) I want anyone that reads my book to be able to relate to my characters (especially my main character Noah). And so my writing will be a balancing act I think of maintaining the distinct and important voice of Evelyn while allowing readers to connect with the players in the story she tells.
It’s a big undertaking and I am feeling up to it. So if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to go spend some quality time with my friend Evelyn.
So essentially, this story I am writing is about a 12-year-old boy who saves a very important and highly unique collection of children’s literature illustrations from a flood that devastates the city of Cedar Rapids in June of 2008.
The flood is real. The collection is real (and was spared from the flood.) The boy and the story are not.
It’s been an interesting journey so far (and I am just now starting the actual writing!) working on a young adult fiction book based on real things and events.
And while so much of what I am writing is a fictionalized story, there are important lessons floating around in there.
For one, I’ve come to realize that when it floods people save what means the most to them…pets, photos, a special toy, whatever it might be. For my main character Noah, the collection of children’s book illustrations at the Cedar Rapids Public Library is what he cares about most during the disaster. Perhaps Noah’s story would be different if his house had been flooded…he’d be worried about his personal possessions.
But we see Noah risk his life to save something for the greater good…to preserve a piece of history…to save art. It’s a bold act for a 12-year-old boy. And my hope is that it can send a message…or messages really. That there’s value in history and collections and art. That sometimes we don’t know our own strength. That there’s hope among the destruction.
You’ll have to give “Evelyn’s Drawings Can’t Swim” a read when it’s ready and let me know if you think I’ve done my part.